Rwandan painter, sculptor on the cusp of stardom

Wednesday March 11 2020

Remy Iradukunda next to his sculpture 'Where I

Remy Iradukunda next to his sculpture 'Where I am From, Where I am Going'. PHOTO | MOSES GAHIGI | NMG 

MOSES K. GAHIGI
By MOSES K. GAHIGI
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Remy Iradukunda was scheduled to perform at a recent event celebrating Rwanda’s heroes in Kigali.

He was supposed to live-paint three heroes, but his act was forgotten, only to be remembered when the event was almost closing. The organisers said he had only 15 minutes to paint the three heroes.

Ordinarily he needs at least 10 minutes to complete a painting. Fifteen minutes later, the 24-year-old unveiled paintings of Fred Rwigema, King Rudahirwa and the Unknown Soldier to an applauding crowd.

Some of the paintings were bought for as much as Rwf 300,000 ($315), and Iradukunda went home with $1,000, including performance fees.

Live-painting is gaining ground as entertainment at bars, concerts, wedding receptions or events, often accompanied by a DJ or live music.

A product of Rwandan art school Ecole d’Art de Nyundo, Iradukunda’s journey started as a child, when his parents bought him foolscaps that he used for drawing houses with pencil.

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After high school, he enrolled for a course in creative design art at the University of Rwanda. Later at Nyundo, he specialised in clay and wood sculptures.

Being left handed, Iradukunda had to learn how to paint with both hands for the live-painting events. He uses acrylics on canvas for his pieces.

“I create sculptures too, but recently I have concentrated on live painting because it is what the market responds to quickly, and I saw it is an easy art form to build my profile. I have sold all my paintings,” he said.

His sculptures embody grace and force. For example, in Where I am From, Where I am Going, he used timber dust and wood to create a bronze-looking man who is representative of Rwanda’s politics from pre-colonial times to the present time.

The man’s upper body is dressed in traditional leather stripes, which cross like suspenders-to represent the old order. His left hand is at the top of his forehead as if looking far into the distance. He uses copper wires to re-create the ancient Rwandan hairstyles. The sculpture costs $900.